Shiv Sena, NCP, Congress to stake claim by weekend
The three-page draft CMP, which HT has accessed, is likely to act as the backbone of negotiations between the three parties at a key meeting in Mumbai on Friday, senior leaders from all three parties indicated.Updated: Nov 22, 2019 01:07 IST
The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress have finalised a draft common minimum programme (CMP) focusing on farmers, unemployment, education and health care, HT has learnt, overcoming a key hurdle in the formation of an unlikely alliance and inching closer to staking claim to power in Maharashtra.
The three-page draft CMP, which HT has accessed, is likely to act as the backbone of negotiations between the three parties at a key meeting in Mumbai on Friday, senior leaders from all three parties indicated. The document is likely to be discussed at the meet, which is also expected to take up possible distribution of ministerial portfolios and the chief minister’s position, the leaders added.
“We have completed discussions. There is complete unanimity between the Congress and the NCP on all issues,” former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told reporters in Delhi after three round of consultations between the pre-poll partners since Wednesday.
The Sena sounded equally confident. “We do not think there is any hurdle now [to stake claim]… the pace at which we are progressing, there is no stopping us,” said senior Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
The draft CMP makes several pledges under different sub-heads. It promises an immediate farm loan waiver, financial assistance to farmers suffering due to floods, and premature rainfall and remunerative prices for crops. The document also calls for enacting a law to ensure 80% reservation in jobs for local youth and a fellowship for educated unemployed youth.
“The three parties commit to uphold the secular values enshrined in the Constitution. On contentious issue of national importance as well as of state importance especially having representations/consequences on the secular fabric of the nation, the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress will take a joint view after holding consultations and arriving at a consensus,” the document read.
The draft CMP takes care of the sensibilities of each other by avoiding a mention of any contentious terms, a person familiar with the developments said. The Sena had expressed reservation to the use of word “secularism” and the Congress agreed to change it to ensure all hurdles in the way of a stable coalition government to Maharashtra are removed, a second leader involved in the discussions, said.
Leaders from the NCP and the Congress indicated that the Sena would be given the chief minister’s chair but there was no clarity on whether the position would change hands after 2.5 years. The Congress and the NCP are likely to have a deputy chief minister position each, with the former also demanding the Speaker’s chair. The NCP may be allotted the chairman’s position in the legislative council.
The three parties are also likely to agree to the formation of two coordination committees -- one at the government level, and the other at the party level.
If the “architecture” of the alliance and contours of the new government are finalised in Mumbai on Friday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and NCP president Sharad Pawar, along with senior Congress leaders, are expected to make a joint announcement. They will then approach governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari with letters of support, likely by Saturday. The governor’s schedule for the weekend is not clear, said officials.
Thackeray is also expected to meet party lawmakers on Friday.
Maharashtra is under President’s Rule since November 12 after the governor told the Centre that no party was in a position to form the government. The state plunged into political uncertainty soon after the October 24 assembly election results threw up a hung House, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at 105 seats, the Sena at 56, the NCP at 54 and the Congress at 44. Independents and smaller parties won 29 seats.
The BJP and Sena, which fought the polls together, fell out over the chief minister’s position and equal distribution of portfolios, ending a three-decade-old alliance. The governor invited the BJP, Sena and NCP, respectively, but no party could prove a majority within the prescribed deadline.
The Sena-NCP-Congress is likely to have the support of 154 MLAs, well above the halfway mark of 145. The parties are likely to agree to share ministerial berths according to their strength in the assembly, said leaders with knowledge of the negotiations.
Earlier in the day, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, at a meeting on Thursday morning gave its go-ahead to an alliance with the Sena despite ideological differences. Congress president Sonia Gandhi chaired the meeting held at her residence.
“We will discuss government formation with pre-poll allies Peasants Workers Party, Samajwadi Party, Swabhimani Paksh and CPI(M) in Mumbai on Friday before holding meetings with Shiv Sena,” Chavan said. Chhagan Bhujbal of the NCP said the CM would be from the Sena. “Other details will be revealed tomorrow,” he added.
Thackeray’s meeting with his party MLAs on Friday is likely to precede the discussion between the three prospective coalition partners.
“The meeting has been called to keep the MLAs in the loop and discuss the next course of the plan with them,” a senior party functionary said on condition of anonymity. The party would take signatures of all its MLAs in the prescribed format after the meeting.
“It is our wish, the wish of people of Maharashtra that Uddhav ji becomes the CM. We will urge him to do so in tomorrow’s meeting, now it is up to him to take the call,” said Abdul Sattar, the Sena MLA from Sillod.
The party plans to fly out its lawmakers to Congress-ruled Rajasthan after their meeting. “The location is still being finalised. The MLAs will be sent to either Jaipur or Udaipur in Rajasthan till the process here is completed,” a senior Shiv Sena leader confirmed. Senior party MLAs including Eknath Shinde and Thackeray’s son Aaditya, who is a legislator from Worli, would stay back in Mumbai.
The NCP and Congress also objected to the Sena’s proposal to name the alliance as “Mahashivaghadi”, insisting that there cannot be dominance of any one particular party in the grouping. An alternative -- Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (Maharashtra development coalition) -- is among the top choices, said the leader quoted above.